Anais Nin Ruined My Life
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage – Anais Nin.
Those few words by Anais Nin hit me like a revelation at university and I decided that from that moment on I would say yes when I should have said no, and no when I should have said yes. I made a vow to become more courageous and closed the door on my stifling world of private schools, sameness and security.
I was led to Madame Nin by my tutor, a tall dark Heathcliff lookalike. He gave me a copy of A Spy in the House of Love, seducing my mind before inviting me a week later to a French brasserie. He poured glass after glass of Beaujolais nouveau, the new crop had just arrived that October, and then took me back to his rooms to gaze at the moon through the old leaded glass windows.
“The time had come when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Again I quote Ms Nin. In the moon’s silvery glow I became Sabina, the young bohemian I had breathlessly devoured through the pages of A Spy in the House of Love, the character disdaining all commitments to dedicate her life to the pursuit of pleasure.
Sabina adores sex with all its mystifying portals and potentials. She has a weakness for picking up strangers in the night clubs of New York in the 1950s, a precarious game I found myself replaying half a century later in the champagne bars of London’s Soho. Anais Nin had become my heroine, avatar, the dark shadow that crosses the room while the night planes follow the Thames into Heathrow and I stare at the words on my laptop wondering if I can make them better; whether, as Oscar Wilde put it, to take a comma out or put it back in again.
Anais Nin Feminist
Anais Nin understood erotica. She wrote it beautifully, a stream of novels, essays, short stories and journals. She was an early feminist. For her, sex was therapeutic; submission, in an erotic sense, the crucible of pleasure and pleasure the path to equanimity and equality.
Her female characters drove her stories as if from the reins of a chariot and she explored her own inner life through the lives of her characters. Life, she said, is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.
Born in 1903, Anais was given the extravagant name Angela Anais Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell. Her parents were Spanish-Cuban, intellectuals well-known on the European social scene. She grew up in Neuilly, France, lived in Spain, Cuba and then the United States. She had affairs with John Steinbeck, Gore Vidal, Lawrence Durrell and, most famously, Henry Miller.
She was shown as having a lesbian relationship with Miller’s wife June in the Philip Kaufman movie Henry & June, although it was never known for certain whether she was truly attracted to women as she was to men. Her novel House of Incest, describes her stormy, sexual relationship with her father. She died in 1977 and her books remain as fresh as if the ink only dried on the page at sunrise this morning
Anais Nin ruined my life? It is quite a claim, a pardonable pinch of hyperbole. What Anais Nin did was open the door on a tall mountain, the peak hidden in the clouds, and through her words impelled me to climb the slippery moist slopes of erotica. I came to see that few things are more important than sexual relationships, it’s how we continue the species, and to write the erotic is an endless cycle of putting commas in and taking them out in a quest for unreachable perfection.